How I was evaluated as a first-year teacher

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As a first year teacher, I had my lone observation in the spring. I was teaching a 9th grade remedial reading class and the students were doing their daily SSR (Silent Sustained Reading). My principal came into my classroom and stood to the side, watching. My students were pin-drop silent reading their self-selected books (their quiet focus wasn't an everyday occurrence that year, but it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities either). 

I slowly walked around the room monitoring and doing a few comprehension check-ins. My principal's cell phone rang. She answered it and carried on her end of the conversation in a loud whisper. Upon hanging up and watching the students read a little longer, she left my classroom. A "satisfactory" evaluation turned up in my mailbox a few days later. My principal and I never discussed it and, if there was any written feedback about my performance, it doesn't stand out in my memory.

Receiving the highest possible evaluation rating should make an employee feel proud of a job well done. My satisfactory rating (the highest in a binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory system) made me feel as if my performance was unimportant and that I wasn't valued as a professional. A quiet classroom was all it took to get the highest mark. 

There's a heckuvalot of work being done in 32 states to make sure that teachers get evaluated based at least in part by how well their students are doing academically. And unless you live under a rock, you've heard about the resistance to using student learning in teacher evaluations for a whole host of reasons. In spite of all those reasons, I can't help but wonder what professional wouldn't want to be judged on the value they're adding to their company, organization, or workplace. High marks could and should really mean something. 

--Sarah Brody